Question

New floorstanding speakers for Sonos Amp.

  • 26 September 2020
  • 22 replies
  • 463 views

Userlevel 1
Badge +2

Before purchasing the Sonos Amp, I was pairing my B&W CM7 floorstanders with Creek Destiny amp, and the source was Sonos Connect via Lindemann DAC. I have bid farewell to the Creek, the Connect, the DAC, and now very much enjoy the simplicity of Sonos Amp + CM7, but also find that my previous system sounded better, with more texture and details.

Since I love the Amp’s versatility and want to spend my life with it, do you think a better pair of speakers will improve the situation? I am willing to spend up to 3000$, but I am not sure if the 649$ Amp is able to drive such hi-end speakers to their finest. In most reviews I have read, they usually pair the Amp with sub-500 or sub-1000$ speakers only.

Many thanks for your insights.


This topic has been closed for further comments. You can use the search bar to find a similar topic, or create a new one by clicking Create Topic at the top of the page.

22 replies

A solid state amp is an amp is an amp, except for cheap chinese knock offs and defective units. As is the sonos amp. Provided it can deliver enough power to drive the speakers, and I can't see the new Sonos version falling short on that front.

Remember that the Sonos amp needs to have its volume controls set higher than almost every hi-fi amp to obtain the same sound levels. And that even a difference of 0.2 dB leaves the sound that is lower, sound thinner.

The price thing, in the world of home audio/hifi, is a red herring.

Assuming the same music source supplying the amp as before, there is no technical reason for your sound from your speakers to change.

Userlevel 1
Badge +2

Assuming the same music source supplying the amp as before, there is no technical reason for your sound from your speakers to change.

If I understand it right, you mean the change of DAC and amplifier has no impact on sound quality whatsoever?

None that can be picked out in a sound level matched single variable double blind listening test. The kind that is used in scientific circles in different domains including clinical trials for new drugs.

Plenty of impacts if this rigour is missing, including psychological ones.

Userlevel 1
Badge +2

None that can be picked out in a sound level matched single variable double blind listening test. The kind that is used in scientific circles in different domains including clinical trials for new drugs.

Plenty of impacts if this rigour is missing, including psychological ones.

If that is the case, can I safely assume that a better pair of speakers will definitely sound better on the Sonos Amp?

 I am not sure if the 649$ Amp is able to drive such hi-end speakers to their finest. In most reviews I have read, they usually pair the Amp with sub-500 or sub-1000$ speakers only.
 

Here’s the thing about the quoted.

If Sonos was a lot smaller than what it is, and was of the same size as many specialist HiFi makes, economics around volumes/scales would not allow them to price their amp below USD 2000, and perhaps higher than that.

In the world of home audio when you compare price points, it is impossible to do an apples to apples comparison. 

The other thing is that a lot of  “HiFi” kit is purposely priced high, as a subtle marketing strategy.

If that is the case, can I safely assume that a better pair of speakers will definitely sound better on the Sonos Amp?

Yes, you can, as long as they don't demand more power than what the Sonos Amp can deliver. Not likely with the 110 or so WPC that Sonos Amp delivers, but there may be some cases that need more.

Remember however that speaker sound preferences are very subjective. What might sound better to me may not sound better to you, although it may sound different.

Therefore, the way to best decide is to test at home, with music that you like, for a few days and make sure that the “better” speaker also sounds better to you.

Userlevel 1
Badge +2

If that is the case, can I safely assume that a better pair of speakers will definitely sound better on the Sonos Amp?

Yes, you can, as long as they don't demand more power than what the Sonos Amp can deliver. Not likely with the 110 or so WPC that Sonos Amp delivers, but there may be some cases that need more.

Remember however that speaker sound preferences are very subjective. What might sound better to me may not sound better to you, although it may sound different.

Therefore, the way to best decide is to test at home, with music that you like, for a few days and make sure that the “better” speaker also sounds better to you.


Thanks a lot.

I tend to disagree with you on the first point (change of sound quality when amp changed). I do notice that the Amp’s volume is lower than other amps. However, even when I increase its volume, there is still a lack of subtlety when compared to my Creek Destiny. I acknowledge expectation bias but in this particular case I think I do hear the difference, since those are songs I have listened to hundreds of time. Too bad that I have sold my Destiny and will not have a chance to try a blind test.

Nevertheless, I think you are right that the size of Sonos allows them to price the Amp at a much lower point than its equivalents from other hi-end makers.


 I acknowledge expectation bias but in this particular case I think I did hear the difference

Unless you actually eliminate this successfully from the comparison, in a way that only a rigorous listening test will, you have no way of knowing what caused the difference you heard.

Also, level matching to make for a good enough test needs sound level matching via instruments, not by human aural judgement.

I am not saying that there is no difference in your case - just that no one that hears these has seen them justified by a scientific test, anywhere in the world. Odds are therefore against you.

The practical approach is that if the difference is not large enough to lose sleep over, to forget about it and enjoy the music for itself. In time, the music will prevail.

 the source was Sonos Connect via Lindemann DAC.

To elucidate: what was the source of the music fed to the Connect?

Before purchasing the Sonos Amp, I was pairing my B&W CM7 floorstanders with Creek Destiny amp, and the source was Sonos Connect via Lindemann DAC. I have bid farewell to the Creek, the Connect, the DAC, and now very much enjoy the simplicity of Sonos Amp + CM7, but also find that my previous system sounded better, with more texture and details.

Since I love the Amp’s versatility and want to spend my life with it, do you think a better pair of speakers will improve the situation?

I’m confused - if your system now sounds worse than your old system, why would you blame the speakers? Surely they’re the one thing that can’t be blamed...

Userlevel 1
Badge +2

Before purchasing the Sonos Amp, I was pairing my B&W CM7 floorstanders with Creek Destiny amp, and the source was Sonos Connect via Lindemann DAC. I have bid farewell to the Creek, the Connect, the DAC, and now very much enjoy the simplicity of Sonos Amp + CM7, but also find that my previous system sounded better, with more texture and details.

Since I love the Amp’s versatility and want to spend my life with it, do you think a better pair of speakers will improve the situation?

I’m confused - if your system now sounds worse than your old system, why would you blame the speakers? Surely they’re the one thing that can’t be blamed...


I am not blaming the speakers, I am just trying to improve the quality of the system as a whole. Since I don’t want to replace the amp, I am thinking of replacing the speakers.

@Kumar: It is either Tidal lossless or local lossless from my NAS.



@Kumar: It is either Tidal lossless or local lossless from my NAS.

Most audiophiles will tell you that you are already on the slide to poor quality sound hell using this source instead of expensive thick interconnects, by losing detail and clarity using this source with all its conversions from analog to digital and back that cause losses and distortions, with wireless as a medium of transmission compounding the error. And they will say this without a blind test, with as much conviction that you are carrying about your comparative testing which is not even strictly comparative being based on memory which is known to be universally fallible when it comes to heard sound quality. And that is all before all the biases hardwired into the human brain come into play.

I would be very careful in spending money replacing existing speakers on some memory of how they used to sound earlier. 

Replace them by all means if you don't like the sound they deliver a month down the line. In HiFi but equally erroneous terms, think of that time as that the amp will take to burn in:grin:

On the other hand, if you are married to a woman, waiting carries the risk of never being allowed to bring back the mess of cables and boxes that were involved in your earlier set up.:grin:

If you do want to make a speaker change though, my two bits worth based on usage of both floor standers and stand mounted speakers.

I have found that in the case of floor standers one is paying a lot more for what is essentially HiFi branded and therefore expensive cabinetry. In addition, many suffer from bass bloat/inaccuracy. I have found much better results from quality stand mounted speakers - for example something like the Harbeth C7 units. 

I have even obtained excellent results from cheaper stand mounted speakers like the Quad 11Ls or Dali Zensor I units, properly placed. Any shortcomings that these may have in the bass area is easily made up via the Sonos Sub, using the small satellite speakers + Sub philosophy which I have found gives results as good as well made floor standers and better than many poorly made ones.

I have also obtained excellent results from a play 1 pair + Sub, with the speakers properly placed and the Sub placed between the two, after Trueplay tuning is done.

In your case, if I really wanted to make a change, I would replace both the amp and speakers with a Sonos 5 pair, also properly placed, and a Sonos Sub. The added benefit would be a further reduction of messy cabling.

If you have the time, read this thread that may offer some insights - even if it does not, it is entertaining.

https://en.community.sonos.com/components-228996/sonos-connect-vs-bluesound-node-2-my-personal-experience-6807202

And the latest comments on it are relevant to your amp situation, even though they may not be of much objective value.

Userlevel 1
Badge +2

Ha ha. Please rest assured that I am not one of those gold-cable fanatics out there. I do use some good speaker cables but they are just decent enough to last forever, and I have no intention to change.

I have heard some good bookshelves with astounding bass, Elac BS243 for example, and I know adding a sub is also a good choice. But I prefer the simplicity and also the majesty of floorstanders - no stands needed. And when you have kids at home, floorstanders are also safer than having two thousand bucks on mounts.

Your Sonos 5 + sub is not suitable for me because I also need the amp for movies. I have two Play:1 as rear speakers. And when I said 3000$ I mean new speakers as a reference. Actually I am thinking of buying a good secondhand pair, which means the price will roughly be equal to two Sonos 5 and a sub.

 But I prefer the simplicity and also the majesty of floorstanders - no stands needed. And when you have kids at home, floorstanders are also safer than having two thousand bucks on mounts.
 

The majesty you refer to is a visual thing that does not drive sound quality except psychologically. 

I get the kids thing so I take that point about the risk of speakers toppling over, with a risk to more than just the speakers. Make sure the kids don't put their fingers or other stuff through the drivers though - especially the dome tweeters.

Userlevel 1
Badge +2

 But I prefer the simplicity and also the majesty of floorstanders - no stands needed. And when you have kids at home, floorstanders are also safer than having two thousand bucks on mounts.
 

The majesty you refer to is a visual thing that does not drive sound quality except psychologically. 

I get the kids thing so I take that point about the risk of speakers toppling over, with a risk to more than just the speakers. Make sure the kids don't put their fingers or other stuff through the drivers though - especially the dome tweeters.

Certainly. Good looking speakers can be good decoration too.

About the kids, you are too years late. My son already poked the CM7’s aluminum tweeters. Paid a hundred bucks to replace the perforated one, and is still making peace with the dented other.

Userlevel 3
Badge +2

If the Lindemann DAC/Creek Destiny is better sounding than the Sonos Amp, replacing your speakers with “better” ones won’t bring back the lost sound of the aforementioned combo.  
 

How many hours of use have you put on the Sonos Amp?  It does sound better once you’ve hit around 100 hours.  I’m using a couple Sonos Amps that replaced “high-end” amps and the convenience and ease of use greatly outweigh any loss of fidelity, if any that I have experienced.

 

 

Userlevel 1
Badge +2

If the Lindemann DAC/Creek Destiny is better sounding than the Sonos Amp, replacing your speakers with “better” ones won’t bring back the lost sound of the aforementioned combo.  
 

How many hours of use have you put on the Sonos Amp?  It does sound better once you’ve hit around 100 hours.  I’m using a couple Sonos Amps that replaced “high-end” amps and the convenience and ease of use greatly outweigh any loss of fidelity, if any that I have experienced.

 

 


I know it won’t, but better speakers can still deliver better sound, in a different way, can’t they?

I think less than 50 hours. But I am not a believer of burn-in theory, anyway.


 But I am not a believer of burn-in theory, anyway.

Amen to that. One could just as well argue that the burn in time is the time it takes for psychological biases to dissolve, or, in the case of some speakers where some burn in may be real, to get used to the new sound signature.

No one does blind tests of a brand new amp and the same model 100 hours down the line - too much trouble involved in doing that.

On the other hand, there are claims for burn in for things like speaker cables as well….:zipper_mouth:

For what its worth, there are some makes of some kit that say that their product needs burn in. Sonos does not say so, not even for its speakers.

The idea that there’s no human-ear observable difference between solid-state amps is laughable.  The AMP is a Class D design, and trust me, there are good ones and horrible ones out there, and they do NOT sound like Class A or Class AB solid state designs.  If you don’t believe me, go on Amazon and order a Lepai LP-2020a and compare it to the Sonos AMP. Throw in the inevitable signal processing (analog or digital) in any audio product and...yeah, stuff sounds different for a lot of different reasons.

My experience has been that the Sonos AMP seems to do well with speakers with decent sensitivity.  I’m using the AMP with the KEF LS50, which are notoriously difficult to drive, and it does have difficulty providing enough current to make loud sections of music loud.  When used with other, less-demanding speakers (including, shockingly, antique KEF Reference 104/2s), it does better.  Your CM7s, like the LS50s, are considered to be relatively low sensitivity (88dB for the CM7, 85dB for the LS50, 92dB for the Reference 104/2) and I suspect that the AMP’s Class D amplifier circuit has trouble delivering enough current.

I’d say, in your search for a new pair of speakers, read some reviews and try to find measured sensitivity figures that get you up above 90dB.  Not sure about Bowers and Wilkins’ more recent offerings, but I know that KEF’s current offerings are all well below 90dB sensitivity and super power-hungry.